Disneyland Paris is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. ROBERT OWEN discovers why it is more magical than ever


It’s 10pm and the park is in darkness. There are murmurs of discontent from people who have been on their feet all day, even if they did spend it in the happiest place on earth.

But then it starts.

Mickey Mouse beams onto the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle in front of us, and we are transfixed by a light projection fiesta called Disney Illuminations.

It is a dazzling extravaganza of fireworks, lasers, water jets, and other special effects.

From classic Disney tales such as The Lion King and The Little Mermaid, to newer hits like Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean, the organisers have gone all out to impress.

And they top it off with an epic emotional crescendo - a pyrotechnic-laden finale in Frozen form.

You can’t help but be impressed, even as a parent. I swear my wife had tears in her eyes.

So happy was my daughter that I thought she might burst, or at least least try and sneak off toward the castle in an attempt to take up residence alongside Princess Aurora and co.

Disneyland Paris is celebrating a landmark year in style.

In April 1992, what has become the most visited theme park in Europe was opened by The Walt Disney Company.

Twenty-five years later, it just as popular and enchanting as ever.

To mark the occasion, several new events, shows and rides have been introduced.

The Disney Stars on Parade spectacular has also been updated for the milestone year.

Mickey and friends glide by on fabulous new floats - including a fire-breathing dragon.

Find a seat along the route early though as it is gets very busy along the LED-laden Main Street – a quaint, nineteen hundred-set middle America-themed dream full of gift shops, food outlets and entertainment.

It mirrors the entrance of its predecessor parks in the USA, but Disneyland Paris is far smaller than those in scope.

For my four-year-old daughter this condensed version was perfect.

Also new in the anniversary year is a fairytale waltz on the Royal Castle Stage next to the castle, by Belle, Cinderella, Snow White, and friends.

If you have a little princess-in-the-making, like us, this is a must-see.

Elsa and Anna don’t appear here but fear not, there is a special singalong Frozen show in the Chaparral Theatre.

A ‘happy anniversary’ showcase with the main man himself, Mickey, is also new. Like Goofy and the other original favourites? This one is for you.

The site is also home to Walt Disney Studios Park, opened in March 2002, which celebrates show business, films and behind-the-scenes access.

There, park favourite Space Mountain has been updated to become Stars Wars Hyperspace Mountain.

A Star Wars: The Adventures Continue ride has also been added, meanwhile.

The 3D experience has more than 70 combinations and lets you travel to the world of Jakku, Hoth, Tatooine, and the Death Star.

Along with all the new additions, tons of other rides remain, including The Tower of Terror, Big Thunder Mountain and – my favourite – Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters

Based in Discoveryland, it is inspired by the Disney/Pixar film Toy Story 2 and is basically a shoot 'em up, with lasers, where you compete to get the highest score.

I lost to my eldest stepson but genuinely forgot I was supposed to act like an adult while playing.

And if Toy Story is a favourite in your house, you must head to Toy Story Play Land where you can have a ride on Slinky Dog Zigzag Spin, brave Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop and climb all over Rex, the dinosaur.

The nearby Ratatouille: The Adventure simulates shrinking you down to see life through the eyes as Remy the rat.

Queues, as to be expected, can be extensive for many of the rides, but there is a Fastpass option, which means you can get a ticket with a set ride time later on in the day to save standing around.

Merchandise has also been given a sprinkling of 25th anniversary fairy dust.

From cuddly toys to designer handbags, there’s a selection for all the family.

You can also get Minnie ears, magic wands and more.

In terms of food, there are 68 different food outlets throughout Disneyland, so you are spoilt for choice.

Disney Blockbuster Café offers speedy service, while the US-inspired retro eatery Annette’s Diner boasts service from waitresses on roller skates.

Getting to Disneyland Paris couldn’t be much easier with Eurostar trains going direct from London St Pancras in two-and-a-half hours. It takes you straight to Marne La Vallee station which is a stone’s throw from the entrance to the parks.

Most airports also do reasonable flights to Paris too.

And once you are there, seven hotels are dotted around the resort.

Disneyland Hotel literally fronts the entrance to the park, while the nearby Newport Bay Club is also a popular option.

Disney’s Hotel Cheyenne is more affordable, while still close.

We stayed in Disneyland’s partner hotel the Vienna Hose Dream Castle Hotel. Just 10 minutes away, there is a free shuttle bus.

I recommend the buffet dinner which was phenomenal.

If you have never been, or think Disney in America is a bit of a stretch, there has never been a better time to go to Disneyland Paris than this 25th anniversary year.

It gave us all memories we will cherish for a lifetime.

For a full list of prices and entertainment during Disneyland Paris’ anniversary year see disneylandparis.co.uk/